Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Daily Headlines: March 31, 2016

* Brazil: Police believe that a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro has been the victim of a gang rape but worry that rape kit tests may have been done days too late.

* Guatemala: Anabela Morfin has been named as Guatemala’s new attorney general after her predecessor resigned and will leave the country in response to death threats.

* Venezuela: LATAM Airlines and Lufthansa have become the latest air carriers to suspend service in Venezuela due to nonpayment of debts and amid great economic uncertainty.

* Chile: A “red tide” outbreak of algae that has paralyzed the Chilean fishing industry is blamed for a dive in manufacturing production last April.

YouTube Source – France 24 English

Online Sources – CBS News, ABC News, euronews, Reuters

Monday, May 30, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 30, 2016 (Multiple Updates)

* Argentina: An Argentine court last week sentenced ex-dictator Reynaldo Bignone to twenty years in prison for his role in the infamous Operation Condor secret program to monitor and murder dissidents across South America.

* Mexico: Kidnapped Mexican soccer striker Alan Pulido is said to be in good health following his rescue by federal and state security forces in the early morning hours today.

Update: Questions have been raised over the nature of Pulido's liberation with conflicting accounts claiming that he allegedly fought off his captors and may not have been rescued by security agents. 
* Puerto Rico: Several thousand protesters marched in San Juan yesterday to call for the release of independence activist Oscar Lopez Rivera on the 35th anniversary of his imprisonment.

* Brazil: The administration of acting President Michel Temer has once more come under fire after a recording leaked of anti-corruption chief Fabiano Silveira giving legal advice to embattled Senate leader Renan Calheiros.

Update: Silveira resigned from his post on Monday and, thus, becomes the second member of Temer's cabinet to quit in the span of a week.

YouTube Source – CCTV America

Online Sources including Update – Fox News Latino, Reuters, ABC News, The Atlantic, BBC News, Vice News

Friday, May 27, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 27, 2016

* Mexico: While questions continue in the official investigation of the 43 Ayotzinapa college students missing since September 2014, one of the survivors of the attack against his classmates has sought political asylum in the U.S.

* El Salvador: The Salvadoran legislature approved issuing $152 million in bonds in order to finance proposals to combat rampant gang violence.

* Brazil: Police are searching for at least thirty suspects behind the gang rape of a sixteen-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro that was recorded and uploaded on Twitter.

* Panama: The Panamanian Supreme Court urged the federal government to seek the extradition of ex-President Ricardo Martinelli from the U.S.

YouTube Source – AJ+ (Video uploaded in September 2015.  Yesterday marked twenty months since the 43 Ayotzinapa students have disappeared and may have been murdered).

Online Sources – The Atlantic, Vice News, euronews, CBC, Reuters

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 26, 2016

* Peru: A sixty-day state of emergency was declared for the Madre de Dios region following the spread of mercury poisoning due to illegal mining operations.

* Brazil: Prosecutors looking into the “Lava Jato” corruption scandal reportedly are examining possible financial wrongdoing related to “all the venues and services financed with federal funds” for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

* Puerto Rico: The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote within the next few days on a bipartisan congressional plan to restructure Puerto Rico’s roughly $70 billion public debt.

* South America: Ecuadoran minnows Independiente del Valle join former Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Nacional, Boca Juniors, and Sao Paulo in the final four of this year’s edition of the top South American soccer club tournament.

YouTube Source – DW (English)

Online Sources – Popular Science, Reuters, ESPN FC

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Brazilian Artists Prevent Culture Ministry Shutdown

Marcelo Calero was sworn on Tuesday as Brazil’s new Culture Minister under Acting President Michel Temer though that was not under the new leader’s original plans. Temer originally opted to merge the Ministry of Culture (MC) into the Education Ministry but days ago reinstated the department following campaigning by the local artistic community.

The main thrust came from the “Ocupa MinC” movement that mobilized to voice their discontent against Temer’s actions. Hundreds of artists, musicians, actors and others protested by taking over MC buildings in twenty-three cities throughout Brazil. In the Teatro Oficina in Sao Paulo, for instance, demonstrators at their sit-in chanted the popular song “Baile de Favela” as a form of resistance. Renowned música popular brasileira singers Caetano Veloso and Erasmo Carlos performed in concert last week at the MC headquarters for Rio de Janeiro.

MinC is ours (and) is a victory of the Brazilian state.  It does not represent any government,” said Veloso who left Brazil under exile during the repressive military rule of the 1970s.

“Any person who thinks culture is superfluous is someone out of touch with the identity of our nation,” declared Carlos in an apparent message for Temer.

Other artists aligned to Ocupa MinC are not only upset at Temer but also outraged over the process that led to impeachment proceedings against his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff. In a video purportedly produced by Ocupa MinC and embedded at the top of this post, at least eleven figures criticize the “illegitimate government” under Temer for removing eight other ministries including those representing women, indigenous communities and human rights.

“The fight for democracy does not have a deadline,” actress Marieta Severo mentioned at the end of the video.

Daily Headlines: May 25, 2016

* Cuba: The Cuban government announced a plan to legalize small and medium-sized private businesses following the success of allowing self-employment in areas like restaurant ownership and hairdressing.

* Colombia: At least three journalists have gone missing and a rumored to have been kidnapped by rebels in a region of northeast Colombia devastated by armed conflict.

* Guatemala: Officials of the neighboring countries of Guatemala and Belize reportedly agreed to coordinate the training of their troops following the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy in a border region.

* Chile: Security guards at Chile’s presidential palace in Santiago clashed with student protesters seeking greater reforms to the educational system.

YouTube Source – CCTV America (Video uploaded in April 2015).

Online Sources – ABC News, BBC News, GlobalPost, Reuters

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 24, 2016

* Guatemala: Guatemalan prosecutors are considering a inaugurating a new office specializing in dealing with femicides in response to the 222 gender-based murders of women in the first four months of 2016.

* Puerto Rico: Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders railed against a bipartisan congressional plan backed by the White House to help restructure Puerto Rico’s $70 billion public debt.

* Peru: Polls indicate that Keiko Fujimori has widened her lead ahead of the June 5th presidential runoff despite corruption allegations within her campaign and concerns over the relation to her imprisoned father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori.

* Venezuela: Brazil’s acting foreign minister said his country and Argentina reportedly agreed to help mediate in Venezuela’s worsening political crisis.

YouTube Source – DW (English)

Online Sources – teleSUR English, Politico, Reuters, ABC News

Monday, May 23, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 23, 2016 (Updated)

* Mexico: The Mexican Foreign Ministry approved the extradition of imprisoned drug capo Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the U.S. though legal appeals could delay the transfer for months.

* Venezuela: The largest military exercise in Venezuelan history took place over the weekend amid increased discontent over the ailing economy and heightened political tensions.

* U.S.: A recent poll of nearly 900 Latino voters have showed respondents overwhelmingly prefer Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over likely Republican nominee Donald Trump.

* Argentina: Will Argentina’s top diplomat, Susana Malcorra, be the successor to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after he steps down on New Year’s Day 2017?

Update: The head of the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Alicia Barcena of Mexico, could be another female option to be the next Secretary General. (Link in Spanish).

YouTube Source – euronews

Online Sources – Business Insider, The Latin Americanist, UPI, SBS, The New York Times, Economiahoy.mx

Friday, May 20, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 20, 2016

* Brazil: Jose Dirceu, a former aid to ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was among ten people sentenced to prison for their role in the “Lava Jato” corruption scandal.

* Colombia: Will drug maker Novartis accede to a Colombian government request to lower the price of imatinib in order to keep its monopoly on the cancer medication in the South American country?

* Chile: Chile’s Supreme Court urged that the U.S. extradite three former security agents believed to have been involved in the 1976 kidnapping, torture and murder of a U.N. official.

* Argentina: Argentina’s opposition-led legislature handed President Mauricio Macri a defeat by approving a proposal to prevent mass layoffs.

YouTube Source – France 24 (Then-President Dilma Rousseff last March failed in her attempt to install her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as her chief of staff.)

Online Sources – Deutsche Welle, Vice News, Reuters, Nasdaq

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Human Rights Watch Blasts Venezuelan “State of Exception”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) today called on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to eliminate controversial “state of exception” measures enacted amidst increased political tension and economic uncertainty in the South American country.

“Until recently, the Maduro administration has been able to jail opponents and trample the rights of ordinary citizens without fearing any response from the other branches of government,” said HRW Americas managing director Daniel Wilkinson in a statement from the group.

“But now that the opposition controls Venezuela’s National Assembly, the president has given himself the power to deprive this body of its authority to sanction government officials,” he added.

Under the sixty-day “State of Exception and Economic Emergency” that went into effect on Monday, power to the opposition-led legislature is curbed by directly allowing Maduro to spend funds and enter into contracts. The new law permits the government to employ the military and police to ensure “the correct distribution” of goods, and permits the Foreign Ministry to suspend agreements by Venezuelan individuals and groups accused of purportedly attempting to "destabilize" the Maduro regime.

Maduro earlier today defended the “state of exception” that he enacted against perceived domestic and foreign threats against Venezuela, and threatened with expanding it beyond the sixty-day period.

“The National Assembly wants to remove me and tie my hands, you know why? If they had my hands tied and I could declare a state of emergency then we wouldn’t have been able to make any decisions,” he added.

Daily Headlines: May 19, 2016

* Puerto Rico: Relief may finally arrive for Puerto Rico after House Republicans and the Obam administration agreed to a proposal that would help restructure the commonwealth’s $70 billion debt.

* Argentina: The revelations from the Panama Papers leak may have been an embarrassment for Panama and Argentine President Mauricio Macri but it could help alleviate the South American country’s financial woes.

* U.S.: A Government Accountability Office study released last Tuesday found that U.S. public schools have become more racially segregated including an increase in the percentage of Latino children enrolled in “impoverished K-12 public schools.”

* Mexico: Mexican authorities rescued 271 people, including 112 minors, of an overcrowded drug rehab clinic where patients were reportedly tortured and grossly mistreated.

YouTube Source – PBS NewsHour

Online Sources – NBC News, UPI, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 18, 2016

* Dominican Republic: Luis Abinader conceded Sunday’s president election to Danilo Medina but not before blasting the policies of the incumbent and denouncing problems at voting stations.

* South America: The Paraguayan Congress is considering a bill to help combat a recent surge in femicides, while lawyers for the Bogota, Colombia government have come under fire for blaming the female victim of having been raped and killed in a 2012 murder.

* Argentina: Monsanto will reportedly “suspend future soybean technologies” as part of a dispute with the Argentine government and framers of genetically modified soybeans.

* Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed expanding the legalization of same-sex marriages from a few locations like Mexico City to the entire Mexican nation.

YouTube Source – euronews

Online Sources – ABC News, teleSUR English, Colombia Reports, Reuters, The Huffington Post

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 17, 2016

* Peru: Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori has come under fire roughly three weeks prior to a runoff over allegations that a close ally of hers is under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

* Brazil: Beleaguered Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras, which last week reported a first quarter loss of $358 million, has dropped from having been a “major player” in the floating production systems market.

* Haiti: The African Union next month will admit Haiti as the bloc’s first non-African member in a move expected to boost the economy of the Caribbean nation.

* Mexico: A second Mexican judge approved the extradition request from U.S. prosecutors to possibly extradite imprisoned drug cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

YouTube Source – CCTV America (Video uploaded last April).

Online Sources – teleSUR English, MercoPress, The Latin Americanist, GlobalPost, The Guardian

Monday, May 16, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 16, 2016

* Venezuela: A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that his country, which has given Venezuela about $50 billion in financing since 2007, views the South American state’s economic crisis as a domestic matter but did not specifically mention if more aid will be provided.

* Argentina: President Mauricio Macri may be seen as “business-friendly” but that hasn’t stopped him from siding with farmers in a dispute that could lead to Monsanto removing its biotech soybean seeds from Argentina.

* Colombia: The Colombian government and FARC took a big step towards a final, full peace deal after the rebels pledged to free all solders under the age of 15 years.

* Dominican Republic: Danilo Medina is expected to easily win a second straight term as president of the Dominican Republic following an election marred by problems with new technology at voting stations.

YouTube Source – euronews (“Opposition protesters have rallied in Caracas. Their calls to remove the Venezuelan president are taking on a more urgent tone.”)

Online Sources – New York Daily News, euronews, Buenos Aires Herald, ABC Online, Reuters

Friday, May 13, 2016

Daily Headlines: May 13, 2016

* Chile: A “red tide” outbreak of toxic algae off the Chilean coast has led to the deaths of thousands of marine animals and paralyzed the local fishing industry.

* Colombia: Representatives of the Colombian government and FARC rebels agreed to a plan to judicially shield an anticipated peace deal, while prosecutors charged ELN guerilla commanders with nearly 16,000 crimes.

* Brazil: Should the Rio Olympics scheduled for this August be suspended or moved in light of Brazil’s political crisis and worry over the Zika virus epidemic?

* Mexico: Mexico's deputy secretary for finance warned that possible plans of a new U.S. president to use remittances to pay for a border wall could hinder bilateral efforts to prevent money laundering by criminals and drug cartels.

YouTube Source – CCTV America

Online Sources – Voice of America, Colombia Reports, InSight Crime, CTV News, Los Angeles Times

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Petrobras Hit with $358 Million Quarterly Loss

As he begins his first day as Brazilian acting president, Michel Temer, will have to face numerous political and economic challenges in the 180 days when he replaces suspended leader President Dilma Rousseff. Recession, growing unemployment, rising inflation are some of the obstacles in front of him though one more can be added today.

The state-run oil giant posted a $358 million net loss in the first three months of 2016, which comes one year after it earned some $1.5 billion in quarterly profits. Analysts surveyed by Reuters anticipated over $1 billion in earnings during the first trimester this year but ultimately the company sunk to a third consecutive quarter in the red. 

Petrobras also reported in its securities filing that net revenue dropped by 5.4% to nearly $20.2 billion, while the EBITDA margin that helps measure operating profit, dipped 2% to around $6 billion.

Much like other oil firms around the world, Petrobras has been hurt by the low prices of crude in recent months. But the company has also been hit by decreased oil and natural gas production purportedly stemming from increased maintenance at promising offshore sites. The refinery division that had helped Petrobras gain profits over a year ago has stagnated amid declining demand.

On the political side of the equation, Petrobras is the key business entity in the middle of the “Lava Jato” corruption scandal where an estimated $5.3 billion in bribes and kickbacks exchanged hands. Though the impeachment charges against Rousseff are not linked to “Lava Jato”, many figures of Brazil’s political elite have been implicated including ally-turned-adversary Temer: